Zara Horner picks away at the latest developments in ice-making technologies.

Flake, scale, gourmet, dice, nuggets, cubes… and so much more! Ice making has turned into something of an art form. Water quality, noise pollution, space efficiency, environmental certification, and melt ratios are all part of the equation and with good reason, according to machine manufacturers.

Scott Bingham is senior product marketing manager at Follett. Since 1948 the US company has billed itself “a leader in high quality solutions for ice and refrigeration that promote health, safety and well-being.” Bingham notes, “ice making technology has come a long way with more compact, quieter, more energy efficient machines than ever before.

Follett's Horizon 710 model
Follett’s Horizon 710 model.

“We have recently introduced the Horizon Elite series of ice machines that have a patented scale-inhibiting technology. Any piece of kitchen equipment that uses water has to battle scale on some level or another, particularly those that deal with phase change. Even in the most challenging water conditions, Horizon Elite can continue with optimum performance.”

Unlike cube ice machines, which attempt to mitigate the scale issue with increased flushing to the point of doubling the required water to make ice, this new machine has frequent low volume flushes to use half as much water compared to other cube ice machines.

“This means lower costs,” Bingham enthusiastically points out.

Follett’s ice machines produce Chewblet ice, which is a compressed flake ice very popular in the US and making in-roads in Asia.

Meanwhile, manufacturer, distributor and supplier of ice machines, Ice-O-Matic prides itself on providing “crystal-clear ice with a full line of cubers, flakers and patented pearl ice machines”.

With a seven-year warranty attached Ice-O-Matic ranges use an antimicrobial compound “to create cleaner safer ice”.

“We have recently introduced the latest Elevation series of machines,” says Nick Hammond, South Asia regional manager.

“These have several unique features: the only fully-sealed and insulated evaporator rear, and a smooth solid ice making zone. We have eliminated all hard to clean nooks and have introduced several larger capacity narrow profile cube ice machines like the CIM1125A which produces up to 450kg and is only 560mm wide.”

Hammond goes on to point out: “There is a trend towards larger cube ice, and our Grande cube at 31mm x 29mm x 22mm is the perfect example of this.

“We are introducing a new under counter machine in 2020 that offers this cube for bars and small restaurants.”

Hammond says ice machine manufacturers are concentrating on improving energy efficiency, cleanability, and environmentally friendly products. Additionally, to serve industry demand, “we will continue to design ice machines that produce more ice in less space.”

Gassing it

ITV, the family-owned business with production out of Spain, manufactures ice machines that follow a sustainable development policy, “using clean, efficient and reliable technologies,” says Cristina Cordón, CEO ITV Ice Makers.

“Currently, one of the latest demand trends in the production process concerns propane gas. Thanks to its low environmental impact and its excellent thermodynamic properties, the use of propane or R290 will be extended, and even more so, in refrigerating machines.

“At ITV we are already working on the implementation of this gas in our ice machines to further reduce their environmental impact. We promote responsible consumption and the concept of Km 0 in components and suppliers. For us it is a must!”

Long gone are the days of a simple cube of ice being enough of course, and ITV Ice Makers produce up to 10 different types of ice cube:

Cordón takes a big breath to list: “Our Spika ice cube, in two sizes – half and full dice – is designed to meet the demand from quick service restaurants. It is the most popular ice cube in Asia. The Gala variety is elegance par excellence, ideal for gourmet drinks. Delta machines make a special ice cube for premium cocktails, keeping the drink cool longer without watering it down. The Alfa ice cube is perfect for establishments that want to offer quantity without neglecting quality. The Quasar variety, perfect for making ice in the most adverse conditions, and the Super Star and Super Star Plus ice cubes meet the demand for large size ice cubes.”

The company recently launched the new Delta Max ice cube machine with a design that differentiates ice cubes. “Another special feature of this ice cube is its large size of 40grams,” Cordon points out.

However, the greatest innovation that is becoming more popular among customers, according to Cordón is the nugget ice machine. “Its main attribute is its regular shape, halfway between an ice cube and crushed ice.”

Hard on the inside and soft on the outside, the nugget is perfect for cooling fruit juices or yoghurts. The nugget machine operation requires less water and electricity consumption, which impacts cost.

“Another kind of ice which is gaining popularity and is made by our Ice Queen ice machines, is granular ice, this is ideal for cocktails,” says Cordón. “While our Scala range produces flake ice which is used to keep food fresh and is also increasingly important for treatments in spas. So I’m told!”

It is essential that while doing the job of cooling the food or beverage – or body – neither flavour nor quality are compromised.

Cordón says that manufacturing focus has, “for years”, been on “more efficient ice machines, both in terms of productivity and energy efficiency, and there is no sign of this trend changing in the near future.

“Customers demand a technology that respects the environment, an objective that is also included in our Seven Corporate Values. We stand for clean, efficient and reliable technologies and have made great leaps forward thanks to our constant investment in research, development and innovation. This has helped develop dozens of models aimed at increasing energy efficiency.”